Polk City, FL – A convicted methamphetamine trafficker has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting death of a 21-year-old Polk County sheriff’s deputy early on Tuesday morning.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) received a tip at approximately 2:07 a.m. on Oct. 4 that deputies could find 46-year-old wanted fugitive Cheryl Williams at a trailer home located on Foxtown South, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Sheriff Judd described the neighborhood as a rural area that is “known to be peaceful and quiet.”
Williams, who had 11 prior felony arrests and four prior misdemeanor arrests, had previously been sentenced to 11 years in prison for methamphetamine trafficking, the sheriff noted.
She served more than nine years behind bars.
Williams allegedly failed to appear in court on another felony charge for methamphetamine possession, resulting in the felony warrant for her arrest being issued, he said.
“She’s a cranker,” Sheriff Judd told reporters. “She had a failure to appear warrant – a felony warrant – for possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia.”
Polk Sheriff says two deputies fired at Cheryl Williams, 46, after she pointed a BB gun at them inside a mobile home. Sheriff said one of the rounds went through an exterior wall and killed deputy Blane Lane, 21, who was in a tactical position outside. @BN9 pic.twitter.com/ahDNrQRDeY
— Josh Rojas (@JoshRojasBN9) October 4, 2022
PCSO Sergeant Michael Brooks responded to the residence with PCSO Deputy Blane Lane, Deputy Adam Pennell, and Deputy Johnny Holsonback at approximately 3:08 a.m.
They approached a man who was standing outside the front of the home and were told Williams was in the backyard, so Deputy Lane took up a “tactical position” in front of the house in the event the suspect tried to flee the scene while his fellow deputies approached the back door, Sheriff Judd said.
The other three deputies made contact with a second man at the back door who confirmed Williams was there and invited them inside, according to the sheriff.
They headed inside as Deputy Lane continued to watch the front door and windows from a concealed position in front of the house.
Sheriff Judd described the mobile home as “kind of a maze,” and noted that the deputies who entered the house initially had no idea where Williams was located.
They were clearing the residence when Williams suddenly stepped into their view “holding a firearm and pointing it directly at the deputies,” the sheriff said.
Sgt. Brooks and Deputy Holsonback both fired their duty weapons, hitting Williams twice before she collapsed to the floor.
Deputy Lane, who was still outside in front of the house, then yelled out that he had been shot.
The wounded hero was rushed to Lakeland Regional Medical Center with what was believed to be a gunshot wound to the arm and everyone initially thought he would be okay, Sheriff Judd said.
“When we get to the hospital and we’re treating Deputy Lane, we learned that the shot that went into the shoulder went into the chest cavity,” he told reporters.
Deputy Lane died as a result of his injuries.
We are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of PCSO Deputy Blane Lane #9228, the grief being felt today by our friends at Polk County Sheriff's Office as well as family and friends of Deputy Lane.
— Polk Fire Rescue (@PolkFire) October 4, 2022
Williams was also transported to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and remained under arrest and under security at the hospital on Tuesday afternoon.
She has been charged with second-degree felony murder, among other offenses, Sheriff Judd said.
Investigators later determined the firearm Williams allegedly pointed at the deputies during the confrontation was a BB gun.
They also allegedly located a methamphetamine pipe that had been placed on a bed next to an open Bible with an opened can of beer sitting nearby, according to the sheriff.
A male witness told detectives after the shooting that Williams had picked up the weapon and headed to another room when the deputies showed up, Sheriff Judd said.
The witness said he told her not to do that, but that she told him to “let them in,” according to the sheriff.
“She clearly and unequivocally wanted to put us into a gunfight with her” or was looking to commit “suicide by cop,” he told reporters. “She knew exactly who they were.”
Sheriff Judd noted that Deputy Lane had taken a “very sound, secure cover position” and had no idea where his fellow deputies were located inside the home.
The deputies inside had no idea where they might encounter Williams inside the house.
The conflict ended up taking place directly next to the location where Deputy Lane was positioned, with an exterior wall standing between them.
The round that hit Deputy Lane was fired by one of his fellow deputies and traveled through the exterior wall.
Had he been positioned three inches forward or backwards, the round would have missed him, Sheriff Judd said.
The sheriff said the surviving deputies “are absolutely devastated” by the tragic series of events.
“These folks depend on each other for their very lives every day,” he added.
🔹 Blessed Are The Peacemakers 🔹
Deputy Sheriff Blane Lane
Polk County Sheriff's Office, Florida
— National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) (@GLFOP) October 4, 2022
Deputy Lane entered the law enforcement academy in September of 2020 and was sworn in as a PCSO detention deputy in May of 2021.
He was transferred to patrol as a deputy in January.
“He was a great deputy,” Sheriff Judd said. “He was eager, he was brilliant, he learned, he absorbed information like a sponge, and he was careful when he did his job.”
The sheriff said the young deputy, the father of a three-and-one-half-year-old child, was loved and admired by all who knew him.
“Words can’t adequately explain the absolute grief we feel,” he said, “but it is our job to be our best at the very worst of times.”
— Erik Waxler (@erikwaxler) October 4, 2022
One reporter asked Sheriff Judd about his reaction to critics who questioned why arrests warrants need to be served in the middle of the night.
“The people who ask why an arrest warrant has to be served at that hour are morons,” the sheriff responded.
“That warrant is valid 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he continued. “We received a call for service that that person was at that residence at that time. What do we do? She’s running from us. She’s always been running from us. She failed to appear. What do we do, say ‘hey, it’s three o’clock in the morning – we don’t serve warrants at three o’clock in the morning?’”
If someone has a warrant, they will be arrested whenever and wherever they are located, Sheriff Judd said.
“So, tell those Monday morning quarterbacks to come down to HR and sign up,” he suggested. “See if you can pass the background. See if you can pass the police academy. Let’s see if you have any intestinal fortitude to get out here and do what young men and women like Deputy Lane does.”
“You can sit at home and run your mouth on your social media – you don’t know what you’re talking about and you certainly don’t have the ability to be one of these fine men and women,” Sheriff Judd added.
He also blasted those who describe methamphetamine as a “low-level, non-violence crime.”
“Here’s your sign,” the sheriff declared. “There’s violence all around the use and trafficking of drugs.”
“A good man died because a cranker wouldn’t show up for court after she’d already been arrested and already spent nine years in prison for meth trafficking,” he noted.
The investigation into the incident remains ongoing.